Stellar Cycle

 

Her final farewells said,

she turns her tear-filled eyes

from the shining blue and white

world she has called home and stares

into the sea of stars.

In a billion years, she knows, her body’s bones,

mummified by the Deep Dark’s cold

will tumble and float among them,

her snow-white suit long gone,

stripped and flayed away by radiation

screaming from all sides, leaving her remains

to crumble into dust, perhaps,

if Fate and Physics are both kind,

to one day spear some other planet’s atmosphere

and cheer any living there and staring at the sky

that night with the sight

of an unpredicted shower of shooting stars…

 

Far better, she thinks, then decaying

in the wormy ground, food for maggots;

a mattress for flies.

 

Her last words spoken, no hope

of rescue now, she shuts her eyes one final time,

blocking out the sight of her ride

home’s wreckage wheeling ‘cross the sky and,

smiling, opens up the valve marked “Must Be Closed.”

A moment’s fear; regrets flash

through her mind, then curiosity – what

will she find? – before –

 

Gone.

She breathes and thinks and Is no more, and

as the air that would have fed and filled

her lungs one lonely hour longer

leaks away,

the invisible stream of her Life’s last breath

heads unseen towards the stars,

leaving every planet, cratered rock and comet

in Her system far behind

on its one way trip into the Great Beyond

around her shrinking sun.

 

 

Years pass.

Ten. A thousand. A million more.

A billion times Her world whips around

its proud parent star before

her dying breath meets resistance.

No planet this; no meteoroid or moon

but a barely-there cloud of brooding

gas and dust  that just happens to be in the way.

Her last breath breathes against it,

gently, so gently, as weakly as a waft

from a butterfly’s wing but just enough

to tip the balance, to persuade the powdery blur

teetering and tottering between collapse

and drift-apart to grudgingly turn in

upon itself and consider what it really wants to be.

 

A billion more years pass,

and what was once a gloomy cloud of gas

and dust is now a star. Rejecting an eternity

as a mere silhouette against

the brighter, sun-drenched sky,

choosing a life of furious fire over millennia

of endless, aimless Being

it is born again and in turn

gives birth to offspring of its own;

a wealth of waltzing worlds soon surround it:

four small stone children, two

bloated behemoths with slowly-sloshing

oceans wrapped in pastel-coloured

cloud- and wind-streaked storms, the smaller

encircled by faerie-frail rings of snow; two

grey-green giants carved of water and rock,

then countless icy dwarves shared out

between them. A new family.

 

 

On the third world, a mere Universe’s eye-blink

after its own bawling birth life emerges;

little more than cloying clumps of cells at first,

but under Evolution’s guiding hand soon

it blooms outrageously, filling the seas and

blanketing the land with creatures both

fantastic and ferocious. Some,

as high as buildings stomp o’er the grassless

ground with planet-shaking strides,

but hide at the approach of others with their ripping

fangs and ululating cries!

 

The blue and green third world is theirs to roam

and rule and for half a billion years until,

one day, Death descends – a flaming,

thundering ball of it,

falling from and through the sky,

punching the planet’s prehistoric crust

so hard most creatures on it die.

But those that survive, hiding and squeaking meekly

in mossy burrow and tree-stump sanctuary

thrive, evolve beyond their wildest dreams

to spread out across the lands in a tsunami

of life, a wildfire of warm-blooded

intelligence charring the world as it sweeps

onwards, onwards…

Caves and sun-bleached savannah are

Home for a while, but soon villages, towns

and cities blossom in every corner of the globe as

the Curious Ones move on.

 

Restless, impatient, always searching, always

seeking truth and better views they first climb

trees then, when trees seem small, ascend mountains,

each one higher than the last,

each summit scaled, in truth, just to

reward their darting monkey eyes with strange new sights

new vistas and horizons.

Finally, when there are no more peaks to pacify

they turn their minds, not just their eyes

skywards and, having always been envious of the birds

that caw conceitedly down from the clouds

declare them their next horizon.

 

Balloons fly first, then patchwork planes

of canvas stretched parchment thin before

metal birds – with wingspans wider

than the first flight’s length – leap

between the continents,  crossing oceans in a day.

 

But they are restless still, and with the wide

open spaces of the prairie sky conquered

another frontier starts to call.

Spellbound by the points of light that

call down siren-like on silent nights

they reach out for them, urgently, defiantly

ignoring those who say It can’t be done;

this world is ours and ours alone, no other home

is meant for us…

                       …laughing at them as a breathless world

watches grainy TV pictures of a man standing

in a dusty, Tranquil place, tall beneath a ball

of blue and white that will Never Be The Same

now he’s taken One Small Step.

 

 

A hundred tortured turns

of that troubled, breath-born world later

a man and woman look down at the ground

drifting far, far below.

With a space station’s girder as their seat

beneath their dangling feet

oceans gleam serene and silent;

500 miles below, mountains, capped with snow

are little more than molehills; rivers and streams

of teased-out silver thread lead

from them to the sea.

Holding hands, spacesuit-cocooned fat fingers

knitted together in the living blue Earthglow

they gaze out at the craft docked starboard side,

the one that will – after a long and lazy pause –

return Them to Their Moon.

Stencilled on its flank: “Orion 5”, and

as they watch its engines light the jewel-bright

stars of that very constellation rise

up to meet their eyes, floating up from behind

Their planet’s pole like fireflies…

 

“So many suns,” he says, “more like pollen grains

or seeds than planet-circled stars…”

She smiles and, half a thousand miles

above the Earth blows gently at the sky,

imagining, for just a while,

that her breath has left the confines of her helmet and is drifting

quickly away, wafting quietly away

from her mouth, moving out

into space, racing away from her world at the Speed of Life –

 

Something tells her it’s happened before;

that if she reached up and plucked

the goldfish bowl from her head instead

of choking and gasping for air

she’d feel – tousling her hair,

making her wide eyes blink in surprise –

satin-soft breaths from Out There,

kisses blown into then carried by the solar winds

whistling from alien suns,

sent on their way long before life had begun

on her world…

 

Sitting there, something inside her smiles.

She Knows; senses the Secret and realises

what she must do.

Reaching down with her space monkey hand

she stands and opens, for a moment,

the valve marked “Must Remain Closed.”

A unicorn horn of recycled air drifts slowly,

slowly away; invisible but for the tinkling

crystals of second-hand breath

sparkling like diamonds within…

 

She watches, wondering what she has done… 

Part of her knowing

 

Years pass.

Ten. A thousand. A million.

A billion times more Her beloved Earth

rolls around its star before her breath

meets resistance: a barely-there

cloud of vacuum-thin air,

gas and dust that just happens to be in the way…

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2006

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